Understanding The Difference Between LCL & FCL Shipping – A Comprehensive Guide

The most commonly used terms for international shipping are FCL and LCL. However, both methods have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs. Understanding their differences is essential for making an informed decision when selecting a shipping option.

This guide will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of FCL and LCL shipments so you can make the best choice for your business.

What are LCL and FCL?

What is LCL

An LCL or Less than Container Load is a type of ocean freight where goods occupy a portion of the container and ship goods along with other shippers from different consignors in the same container.

What is FCL

An FCL means Full Container Load, a shipment that occupies the full container exclusively without sharing with other consignments.



International shipping through ocean freight has two primary options: LCL and FCL. However, the differences between these two transport styles are significant. For example, FCL shipping is recommended for large quantities in full container loads, while LCL shipping consolidates consignments in a container. Below are some topics that highlight the difference between LCL and FCL.

Volume: FCL vs. LCL

Shipment volume refers to the space the shipment occupies in the container. It is calculated based on the cargo’s length, width, and height.

LCL shipping is ideal for low-volume shipments. The minimum chargeable volume is 1 CBM (cubic meters) and should not be over 15 CBM (cubic meters)FCL shipping is ideal for large shipments in with volumes over 15 CBM (cubic meters)Container sizes vary in 3 with approximate volume capacities:
  • 20-foot – 33 CBM
  • 40-foot – 67.5 CBM
  • 40-foot HQ – 76 CBM

Weight: FCL vs. LCL

Weights for container shipments refer to the total gross weight of cargo plus the tare weight.

The minimum weight for LCL is 150 kg, and the maximum is 10 tons.Maximum load capacity in FCL container varies:
  • 20 ft – 25,000 Kg
  • 40-foot & 40-footHQ – 27,600 Kg

Shipment Costs: FCL vs. LCL

The shippers utilizing FCL pay a flat fee for the entire container of goods regardless of how much container space is empty during transit. As a result, shippers can maximize their shipment and pay just one shipment cost.

While LCL container shipping pays only a portion of the container, the cargo occupies. Thus, factors such as weight and volume are directly proportional to the costs of the shipments. Therefore, smaller volumes and weights of cargo have less cost. On the other hand, the higher the volume and weight, the higher the freight cost.

Risks and Security: FCL vs. LCL

FCL is a single consignee shipment; thus, there is a lower risk of losing goods, damage, and theft than the multiple consignee shipments. Conversely, while LCL has many types of goods shipped in one container, it has a higher risk of loss and damage.

Transit Time: FCL vs. LCL

Transit time for FCL shipment is usually faster as transit routes are direct from the origin to the final destination. Conversely, LCL shipment transit time is longer due to split shipments. In LCL, ranges of products are consolidated in a container and then shipped. Once an LCL container arrives at the destination country, goods must be transported to the deconsolidation warehouse nearest the recipient’s destination.

Flexibility: FCL vs. LCL

When shipping to multiple Amazon FBA facilities, LCL or less-than-container load shipments offer tremendous flexibility. The process for unloading is more straightforward – instead of numerous containers being sent to various destinations, multiple shipments get combined into one shipment. Combining shipments into a full container load reduces the overall cost and time spent on either end of the process, making it beneficial when multiple shipments would be too expensive or overwhelming.

Ultimately, while FCL shipment is more suitable for larger loads and long distances where transport delays can be easily anticipated, LCL shipments offer convenience and cost savings that may be more attractive in other scenarios.

LCL vs. FCL: Which is cheaper?

Calculating overall charges is essential when weighing up FCL vs. LCL shipping. LCL may have a lower overall price as it allows goods to ship in a shared container. The container capacity determines the overall cost: smaller amounts of cargo are generally cheaper than more significant amounts.

On the other hand, shipping with a full container will incur higher overall costs; however, this option includes more significant expenses related to discretion and privacy. Additionally, FCL is also considered to be faster than LCL in terms of overall delivery times, as goods are optional to be combined with others, which can cause delays.

Ultimately, the level of need and available budget should be considered when deciding which options between LCL and FCL will provide the most cost-effective solution.

LCL vs. FCL Shipment: The Essential Things To Know

LCL is typically the preferred mode of shipping goods if the shipper cannot fill a standard 20-foot and 40-foot shipping container. On the other hand, LCL is often too heavy for shipping air freight. The freight forwarders will take care of the collection of container loads and may have your items brought to the consolidation warehouse. The cargo must arrive on time packed with all the necessary documents. The cargo you transport will share occupant space in a container if the business rents the container.

Meanwhile, in FCL shipments, the whole cargo is in the entire container. It is because renting and shipping containers are flat fees. Typically there are two types of FCL services: Port-to-port and door-to-door.


Port to port

Shipping terms such as port to port refer to shipping goods from one port to another port. In this shipping practice, freight agents or freight forwarder is responsible for the safe passage of goods from the originating port to their destination port. The shipping cost and timelines involved in shipping these goods depend on the distance between ports and other shipping arrangements.

Choosing FCL “port to port” shipping allows the owners more flexibility when shipping goods due to its ability to provide velocity and enhance global linkages at competitive rates.


Door to door

Door-to-door freight forwarding allows freight forwarders to handle FCL shipments requiring direct pickup and delivery while offering scheduled delivery appointments. Door-to-door ensures accurate container tracking and appropriate notification of the intended recipient before delivery. As a result, customers can arrange freight forwarding services while having peace of mind throughout the process, as it is tracked securely from start to finish. Door-to-door freight forwarding is ideal for those seeking reliable, convenient services.


In conclusion, FCL and LCL shipping have advantages depending on your business’s needs. FCL shipping is the best option for shipping large quantities of goods in a container. However, if cost savings and flexibility are important factors, LCL shipping may be more suitable.

Ultimately, it’s best to research all options carefully before making any decisions regarding freight forwarding services so that you can choose the best method for your company’s specific requirements. With this information in hand, we hope navigating through these different shipments will become easier!

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, LCL or FCL?

Choosing between FCL and LCL depends on the specific needs of your business. FCL shipping is usually more cost-effective for larger shipments and provides more security due to its single-container transportation. On the other hand, LCL shipments are better for smaller or less time-sensitive items as it provides greater flexibility and often lower costs than FCL shipments. Ultimately, researching all your options thoroughly before making a decision is the best way to determine which mode of shipment is right for you.

What are the advantages of FCL Shipping?

FCL shipping is an efficient and cost-effective way to transport large goods in full container load. In addition, this type of shipment provides greater security than LCL shipping as it eliminates the need for multiple containers or break-bulk cargo.

What is the difference between LCL and FCL shipping?

LCL shipping is when multiple pieces of goods are placed in a single container. In contrast, FCL shipping involves placing an entire cargo load into one container.

Why is FCL more expensive than LCL?

FCL shipping is typically more expensive than LCL shipping because FCL requires a container for the entire shipment, while LCL requires multiple containers for each shipment. This means that FCL is more suitable for larger shipments, as it provides greater security and protection from

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